With March being Colon Cancer Awareness month, Intermountain Health want the public to know that colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable with early detection. 

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death for men and women. Every day, about 300 people in the United States will be diagnosed with colon cancer and an estimated 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer every year. 

According to studies, 2020 and 2021 saw dramatic drops in routine cancer screenings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, colon cancer screening rates decreased by 86% across the country in 2020. Experts at Intermountain Healthcare saw an almost 50% decrease in colorectal screenings across the system. 

Further delays in screening could lead to a delayed cancer diagnosis. Screenings are designed to detect cancer early and early detection is more easily treatable so that you can have better outcomes. 

Many colorectal cancers begin as a small polyp, and if a polyp is found during colonoscopy, it can be removed, preventing the polyp from ever turning into cancer. Thus, colonoscopy can serve as both a screening and preventive tool.

45 is the New 50 for Colon Cancer Screening 

New national guidelines have changed from 50 to 45 to begin screening for colon cancer due to increasing rates of colon cancer in those in their 40s. Some people under 40 may need screenings if they have a close relative who has had colorectal cancer or certain medical conditions that affect the colon. 

What are Major Risk Factors? 

• Age: 90% of colorectal cancer occurs in adults over age 45.

• Family History: You may be at higher risk If you have a close relative who has had colon cancer or a polyp

• Medical Conditions: Inflammatory bowel disease may increase your risk for colon cancer. 

• Race: Rates of colorectal cancer are higher in African Americans compared with other races. Although this may be because fewer African Americans get screened for colon cancer. 

• Lifestyle: There are risk factors you can change. These include stopping smoking, your diet, a healthy weight, and being active.  

Other Screenings for Colon Cancer 

New advancements allow people to screen more often using a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kit at home.  

The FIT does not replace a colonoscopy but can serve as a vital tool for regular monitoring for those with low to moderate risk of colorectal cancer. Physicians agree, If FIT results come back positive, a colonoscopy should be scheduled. 

It is recommended people speak with their doctors to come up with a screening plan that’s right for them. 

For more information on colonoscopies, or to find a physician visit intermountainnv.org.